In 1994, I fell in love with the work of Thich Nhat Hanh. One little meditation in particular seemed to turn my life around—from being a harried and hurried woman, to one who was more present, more at ease in her world.
This is the passage, culled from Living Buddha, Living Christ:
"Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment.
I know this is a wonderful moment."
His were the first teachings that helped me realize I could "breathe in" a feeling other than the one I was currently experiencing ... allow it to be held gently within me ... allow it to transport me to a more peaceful place. Enough so that I could "breath out" as a new, more well-balanced version of myself.
Would you like to try this for yourself?
Breathe in deeply, evenly, and allow any tension to dissipate. Breathe in this way as long as you need to to feel a sense of greater calm.
Select one virtue of the Spirit you would like to experience right now. Peace? Patience? Love? Kindness? Courage?
Select another virtue you would like to breathe out—to send out in the world for the benefit of all beings.
Keeping in rhythm with your breath, say:
"Breathing in ____________.
Breathing out ___________."
Breathe in and out this way as long as you desire.
Today, I am choosing to breathe in gratitude and breathe out joy.
It feels wonderful. I feel transformed, yet again ...
I'd love to hear what you chose to breathe in and breathe out ...
Have you checked out "Meditate Like a Girl" yet? It's the new online magazine and community I founded, dedicated to "Exploring and celebrating meditation, in all its forms, with Feminine style and verve." It's simply fabulous!
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"Being Free: Transforming Daily Struggles into Feminine Wisdom"
Each month, I offer a free, 30-minute audio teaching on one uniquely feminine issue that keeps us stuck and disconnected from our true self.
April's difficult issue is: "I Don't Like My Body."
In this downloadable recording, I share how you can begin to shift your feelings for your body from harsh and self-judging to compassionate. I also offer 3 important steps you can take to love your body more.
Listen to the podcast here.
I've been wrestling with myself a bit lately. Just a gentle tug of war, not a Jacob and the angel throw-your-hip-out-of-whack sort of contest.
The source of my angst? The weather is not doing what I want it to. Simply put, I want it to be spring. It is April 14, after all, and we still have snow here in upper Michigan which is nearly unheard of and it's making me very cranky. It is supposed to be spring-like now—warmish and sunny—crocus and tulips bending and bowing in the breeze.
And we have had nearly 6 consecutive months of cold, windy weather here and, truthfully, I am tired of it.
I long to amble in the woods and look for early wildflowers. I ache to put my hands in the dirt and rearrange the soil to midwife seeds into blooms. My heart longs for color.
I'm cranky because, like a spoiled child, I am not getting my way.
I know full well that this internal struggle is a matter of acceptance and letting go. It's not an uncommon struggle for me, being someone who rather likes to be in charge.
I know full well that this inner angst is simply ridiculous, a complete waste of time and, spiritually, very foolish.
I know full well that we can't always get what we want. (Though Mick Jagger sang that we might, sometimes, get what we need.)
But this doesn't stop me (or any of us) from wishing and hoping life could be different than it is.
If we are awake and aware and even a little bit wise, we see the error of our ways before we've created too much suffering for ourselves.
All of this chafing against something not to our liking causes us to walk around with a curmudgeonly attitude, a hitch in our gate, a speck in our eye.
The best thing I know to do when I am resisting "life as it is" is to stop. Just stop, and ...
... say what is ("I really don't like this, you know!"" ...
... take a deep, cleansing, breath ...
... and settle down by whooshing myself with compassion.
A whoosh of compassion is a visualized wash of lovingkindness—beginning at the top of your head, gently pouring over the length of your body like a warm saltwater flow, pooling at the soles of your feet, so you find yourself standing in a puddle of well-being.
Amazingly, it works. Our disquietude becomes silent. The eye of our heart clears. Wisdom returns.
And as it does, life in the world goes on as usual. The snow is still here. The flowers will rise when they are ready. It is I who feels different today because I've taken myself out of the equation.
The world does not rotate around me and my wishes. I rotate around and through it. As long as compassion is present, I can. Any of us can ...
(Photos © 2012, Jan Lundy.
From my garden of longing.)
Sometimes we don’t need to pursue happiness.
Lately, I'm living by this quote.
When you think about it, there really is no point in seeking happiness. If you go looking for it, it's possible you won't find it. Besides, so often when we do set our sights on something, we're disappointed once we get there!
That's why I'm practicing (and the key word here is "practice") what Rabbi Sacks advises. It's so much wiser to pause and let happiness find us. And it's a lot less driven ... Ah, relief!
So how do you do this anyway, let happiness catch up with you?
This was one of my primary intentions in taking my own "Year for Me." I wanted to be more conscious of how fast I was moving through my days. I hoped to get more in tune with my natural rhythm and align my daily activities with that. My deepest desire was to get in touch with my soul's urgings.
To do this we have to pause. Often. Lots of pausing is required ...
... And stopping, breathing, noticing, naming, feeling it all too.
And we are not a people who pause well, are we?
If we stop to look at something, people gawk and say, "What is up with her?"
But pause and linger is what we must do if we are to allow happiness to find us.
We DO have to walk more slowly and let the power walkers pass us on the sidewalk.
We DO have to look up at the sky or down at the ground to catch the intricacies and marvelousness of nature while others stare, wondering what the heck we're doing.
We DO have to sit on a bench and people watch so we can get in touch with our shared humanity—how unique we are yet how much the same—even if others question our motives.
This type of pause is vital to our well-being. It is a Sacred Pause. It is a pause that not only refreshes but plugs us back into what is most important in life.
Simple pleasures. People. Beauty. Our true selves. The Divine.
It is a pause like this which allows happiness to sneak up behind us, tap us on the shoulder, and say, "Here I am. Remember me?"
Join me for 30 days of happiness-boosting skills with my new online program, "Learn How to Be Happy" at DailyOm.com.
This post is Part II of an offering on Happiness. What is it, really? How do we "achieve" it? Is it even something to be achieved?
I maintain that happiness is a habit, and one that we cultivate from the inside out. The more we practice this habit, the happier we are—in a long-lasting way. The problem is knowing how, which I address in m
If you missed Part I of this conversation, you can find it here.
Your Most Predominant Mind Pattern
Each of us has very specific ways in which our mind works. We have deeply embedded patterns, story lines, likely sourced in childhood events, that have become habituated ways of thinking—and they tend to run us. And they cause undue stress. AND they keep us from experiencing happiness!
For example, many women have “worry mind.” We incessantly mull over what might happen in the future to ourselves, or to our loved ones. Another pattern is “busy mind.” With the frenetic pace of our lives, this is not surprising. The faster we go, the busier our minds get. “Busy mind” can cause anxiety levels to escalate. Both of these mind patterns can be extremely debilitating, causing severe stress, culminating in poor health.
One of my predominant mind patterns is “planning mind.” Being a teacher by training and calling, I often find myself lost in thought, creating lesson plans for an online class I teach, blog posts, or simply planning out my life months ahead of time. I seem to think that allowing my mind to behave in this way will bring peace of mind. In reality, it often creates feelings of anxiousness or overwhelm.
What would be one of yours?
No matter which one you have you can work with it successfully. And please know this: there is no shame in having a particular “kind” of mind. It is simply a result of being human!
Use the “Stop, Look, Listen, and Feel” process with your predominant mind pattern too. Simply notice it, name it, and with the assistance of some deep breaths—let it go. Turn your attention to something else. In time, you can “rewire” your thinking to be less rigid, more flexible, workable.
Choice by choice, we can shift how we respond to our minds. We do not have to be run ragged by pesky thoughts or mind patterns. Infuse yourself with passion to be happier and you can. Take good care of your mind and I’m confident you’ll feel happier in no time—from the inside out!
Join me at DailyOm.com for my new 30-day program, "Learn How to Be Happy."
One happiness-inducing practice each day for one month will build your happiness muscles!
Learn more. Includes a live Forum, by the way, so we can connect—up close and personal!
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Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.